Are Somali Women Being Set Up for Failure?

It’s 2018. Why aren’t we talking about the real issues we experience as Somali women: student loans, the wage gap, rising cost of living and lack of affordable childcare? I meet so many Somali women my age (27) who are now divorced with children and without a clue just how difficult life is for Black single mothers in the U.S. We are doing a disservice to Somali women by parading unrealistic expectations and failing to prepare them on how to navigate systemic violence.

I’ve discussed my mom’s experience on my blog before about how she successfully navigated a language barrier, learned how to drive and prepared us to be unyielding in the face of a predatory, racist and treacherous U.S education system. I grew up listening to my mom’s cautionary tales about what coming of age was going to be like. “Provide for yourself, and you will eat twice,” she said during a lesson on how to strain pasta. I was 12. My mom rarely sugarcoated how she felt. Don’t ever trust men. Always have an exit strategy.

I think deep down, my mom feared I would share her fate. She was a prisoner in her own life because she couldn’t financially afford to leave. She was trapped in a ruthless system of wage theft called minimum wage. She arrived right when mass incarceration was garnering steam. My mom knew she couldn’t obtain citizenship with any blemishes on her record, so she refrained from calling the police. Black immigrants in the U.S. must navigate a racially biased criminal justice system, labor market and immigration enforcement simultaneously.

27 is a pivotal age in the U.S because this is when people are entering their first marriages. It’s frustrating to watch my friends struggle since we all come from communities where women outperform men in every area of achievement. My theory is that men from these communities are being coddled by mothers who rarely hold them accountable which promotes a cycle of enabling and codependency later. Because patriarchy blames women for men’s shortcomings, young girls grow up to be self-adjusted without assistance. Men grow up with a lack of accountability.

When I was 8 years old, I was changing diapers and translating legal documents. But all I wanted to do was play outside. I was expected to be an overachieving, pious and selfless Somali daughter. It was hard growing up with that much of a burden. In high school, there were predatory men amongst us who were way over 21. I never felt safe. Our culture enables the abuse and violation of young girls by shaming us into minimizing our existence. To be a Somali girl is to be aware of the relentless amount of rationalization that happens when we are manipulated, exploited and violated.

As a Somali girl who raised herself, I think I did a great job. I have a stress-free life which I believe to be a marker of success. I am not indebted to anyone. Everything I want out of my life is within reach. I am able to travel to the places I once read about in ESL. I live an adventurous, carefree and simple life. And most importantly: I am no one’s mule. Alhamdulilah.


6 thoughts on “Are Somali Women Being Set Up for Failure?

  1. Khadija

    Girl I know exactly what you’re talking about. Sometimes its very suffocating being a Somali girl. Especially when the community praises “Unselfishness” in our girls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fadumo

      Yes! Unselfishness will not get us to where we want to be! We are NOT mules!!! We are people who have desires, motivations, joy and security. I’m so over living like I don’t have needs.


  2. H

    Yes, yes and yes! You are speaking the absolute truth that a simple and stress free life is the absolute best thing one can have, and if anything threatens that then it’s not worth having. I see my cousin’s wife who’s in her mid twenties with four kids, no job and a deadbeat husband, and I just can’t help but feel incredibly sorry for her because she lives a stressful life… for what? A lot of Somali people think it’s better being married, having kids and then divorcing than being single altogether, firstly because we’re very lax about divorce and secondly because at least you have some children to keep you company and look after you in your dying days. A life like that comes with pure stress so I’m good thanks! As Somali women we need to put ourselves first instead of succumbing to societal pressures that do not have our best interests at heart, because when your husband abuses you, cheats etc will the community be there for you?! They won’t! Put yourself and your own interests first and I guarantee your life will be less stressful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kay

    This articles did not explain how Somali women set up for failure? It ended about you and your care free live? another question, was your mum in a marriage when she warned you about not trusting man? is that the reason (I assume) you still single? I am just curious…


    1. Fadumo

      Hi! Thank you for the comment. This is a personal narrative, so I can only speak on my own experience. I think my mom was warning me to always have a way out. However, being a Black immigrant woman, I have more barriers to earning enough money to leave. The older I get, the more I become aware of how I could also experience similar setbacks. It’s a lot to explain lol.


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